When he crossed the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh brought five sandwiches and two canteens of water. The first inflight meals actually were served six years earlier by Handley Page Transport, an airline founded in 1919 to serve the London-Paris route. Passengers could choose from a selection of sandwiches and fruit. Inflight dining has evolved a bit since then. For operators of smaller aircraft, a simple cooler of snacks and cold drinks will do the trick, but larger, cabin-class business aircraft are frequently equipped with a galley that can serve the dining needs of more-sophisticated palates. And those galleys are becoming ever more sophisticated.

After a long, overnight flight, the aromas of toast, scrambled eggs, sausages, coffee and fresh-baked cinnamon rolls will be well appreciated by everyone on board. The chief passenger wants steak with those eggs instead? No problem — use the self-contained worktop-mounted hotplate with a frying pan securely enclosed within it.

Preparing such tasty food from the confines of a tiny galley for a cabin-full of business aircraft passengers has always been a challenge, but it’s getting easier.

Whether you’re planning to purchase a new cabin-class aircraft or upgrading an older model, if your passengers’ needs include consuming food and beverages, many factors come into play. And providing an aircraft with a galley adequate to the task should not be taken lightly by business aircraft operators. That’s what we discovered by contacting aircraft interior specialists and aircraft galley equipment makers.

To begin, we asked them all to describe recent galley design trends they’re seeing. While no major new developments are evident, subtle changes are underway.

“Aircraft galley design is slowly but surely integrating trends currently emerging in residential homes, with kitchens becoming more of a focus to be highlighted, rather than functional areas to be hidden behind closed doors, said Elisabeth Harvey, manager of the Design Studio at Jet Aviation Basel, in Switzerland. “Over the last five years, I have seen the galleys built by Jet Aviation move from functional spaces, enhanced from a commercial-type galley, through to fully bespoke designs including variable temperature wine chillers, island units and sophisticated storage solutions.”

Customization, rather than cookie-cutter-standard continues to be important to operators. “Every business aircraft operates differently and there is no single option that is trending universally,” said Lori Browning, aircraft interior/paint designer with Duncan Aviation’s Battle Creek, Michigan, location. “The only exception to that is the request for more storage, of course. All customization results from the mission of the aircraft. Some aircraft require extra countertop space for preparing five-course meals, and some are set up for self-service of drinks and snacks. Cultural preferences also tend to drive these modification requests. For example, our European customers request espresso makers instead of coffeemakers.”

Meanwhile, operators of head-of-state aircraft, particularly widebodies, tend to utilize airline-grade galleys suited to serving several a dozen or more passengers, said Mike Weisner, Greenpoint Technologies’ chief customer engineer, Denton, Texas.

“These applications allow us to draw from the latest advances in ‘inserts’ — coffee and espresso makers, ovens, refrigerator/freezers, trash compactors, etc.,” said Weisner. “There is a migration from the traditional ‘ATLAS’ sized equipment to a new set of standard dimensions defined by the ARINC 610 specification. Using a standardized set of dimensions has the benefit of permitting replacements and future upgrades within the identical galley space provisions — meaning no need to modify the structure to fit a new oven, for example.”

“No matter the size of the aircraft, there is never enough storage space,” observed Duncan’s Browning. “The key is to help our customers determine their main priorities and allocate for these needs in the galley layout. What room is left over can be used for the lesser priorities.”

As Always, Form Follows Function

We asked our experts about galley hardware specifics, such as countertops, refrigeration, cooking units, flooring, cabinetry and storage, lighting, water, waste and ventilation.

Countertop materials such as DuPont Corian and similar man-made materials are still seen as the most durable; they resist chipping and are low maintenance. Synthetic and even highly processed real woods have come to market in certifiable form and are in vogue to enhance the decor of galley and adjoining entry or serving areas. While marble and granite countertops are usually reserved for bathrooms and lavatories, the use of real stone (in shaved-down thicknesses compared to residential kitchen counters) is now the norm, said Greenpoint’s Weisner. “These provide not only a professional work surface, [but also] natural stone has a high aesthetic appeal.”

For all other galley surfaces, wood veneer remains the most popular option by far. Most customers use a laminate material on the interior that cleans well. Plated panels are gaining popularity for the aesthetic aspect, but they may not be a great option for aircraft with heavy use.

“Costs of galley materials aren’t unusually high, [but] the cost of customization can be a little surprising,” said Browning. “The sticker shock comes with the cost of certified equipment. You can’t just pick up an appliance from a department store and plug it in to your galley kitchen. The appliance needs to be certified for use in the aircraft and its systems. For example, depending on the aircraft and the appliance chosen, a microwave can cost more than $23,000.”

For cooking food, we found a “range” of opinions. Naturally, most short-haul aircraft require less, if any, equipment for meal preparation. Longer-range aircraft typically elect to use a combination of ovens and cooktops. So-called bizliner galleys often employ airline-standard cooking systems, but the sky’s the limit as to what can be done. Teppanyaki grills, set within an eat-at counter surround like those seen in trendy Asian restaurants, are starting to appear in a few twin-aisle size corporate and VVIP jet cabins. After use, the grill and its smoke hood can be magically concealed within an attractive convertible worktop.

Other interesting new developments in cooking preparation over recent years have been greater use of open cooktops, as well as the introduction of induction ovens, which lend a new dimension to cooking at higher altitudes. Induction ovens and cooktops are not just a means of heating, they also can transform ingredients into a meal. The oven is not hot in any of its parts during operation, it provides faster food reheating and it allows operators to easily prepare fresh meals like those in a five-star restaurant.

“This is a fundamental change of approach, confirming a move from reheating pre-cooked food to creating personalized meals,” said Jet Aviation’s Harvey. “This technology has already been incorporated into VIP cabin interiors and, indeed, Jet Aviation purchased one of the first induction ovens and assisted with the certification effort required.” (See “Hot Stuff” sidebar.)

These new trends are complemented by other new products, such as rice cookers, skillets and toasters designed for aircraft environments. Completion centers we contacted, however, most often still specify regular equipment such as microwaves, bun warmers and ovens — both convection and steam ovens.

Accommodating carry-on appliances can be challenging, we learned. Some passengers have been known to carry on and use things like rice cookers, baby bottle warmers and electric grills. They need to understand that these things can wreak havoc with electrical systems. Also, try to determine if children’s and/or pets’ food needs will require special planning in the design stage.


Operators of most small- to midsize business aircraft aren’t often willing to give up the weight and storage space required for refrigerators. For operators of larger aircraft, however, new products include multiple-use chillers that can be set to refrigerator or freezer settings. Versions are available with transparent doors to show off the contents — particularly suited for wine/beverage chillers installed in buffets or serving areas within the passengers’ view.

“Refrigeration is one of the most important elements to consider in our aircraft,” said Jet Aviation’s Harvey. “Most of our clients enjoy a fresh food service, where food is cooked to order. Cool storage is therefore highly appreciated to enable a suitable amount of fresh food to be stored throughout the flight. Jet Aviation has sometimes even created our own cooling cabinets, which are larger than standard-size fridges, to meet this particular need. Freezers are also requested, but when space is at a premium, compromises do need to be made. Flight crews sometimes may, for instance, use an ice drawer for lower temperature cooling, if needed, in order to not lose space for other equipment.

“What is paramount, of course,” Harvey continued, “is to understand the customer and their requirements and, as with any other part of the aircraft, design to their specific brief. In one interior, chilled trolleys may be the best thing to specify; in another, a customized refrigerator would be the right choice.”

Other than the new ARINC dimension standards for galley carts and insert carrier boxes, fitted storage for “CCF” (the term for ‘china,’ ‘crystal’ and ‘flatware’ in interior design parlance) has always been customized for the complement of items onboard.

It’s much more cost effective to purchase china and stemware that fit into the galley than modify the galley to fit the china and stemware. When operators are purchasing items, cabin designers recommend that they should come prepared with drawings or photos of the galley and its measurements. “And most importantly, they should think petite!” cautioned Duncan’s Browning. “Everything will most likely need to be smaller than what they’re used to seeing and using in a home or restaurant.”

And Be Sure to Have Enough of Everything

“With the potential range of aircraft increasing,” Harvey said, “extending time in the air, more food service is also required. This brings new challenges regarding storage of food and associated service items, such as chinaware and glassware, in sufficient quantities to cater to the passengers for the duration of the flight.

“We normally specify silverware, porcelain, crystal and other items from high-end suppliers, such as Christofle or Baccarat, [that] also supply home or yacht owners,” Harvey continued. “For cabin interiors, the dimensions and weight of each item are of particular importance. Every item in the cabin needs to be stowed, which is why careful consideration must be given to exact dimensions of each item. Weight is as critical, as each compartment is rated for a particular amount and must be adhered to. When we try to ensure that cabin weights are kept to a minimum, a lighter weight china service can be a deciding factor.”

Lighten Up

Good lighting in the galley area is important, but it shouldn’t interfere with passengers in the cabin who may require low or no light. Whenever possible, try to angle bright galley monitors and lights away from the main passenger area.

The prevalence of LED lighting fixtures permits small and efficient (not hot) task lighting in virtually any nook and cranny that cabin designers choose. This especially helps improve the usability of all space within a galley complex.

As with residential kitchens, lighting has traditionally been used only functionally. However, as the designs of galleys become more sophisticated, so does the lighting. “We have started to design galleys intended to be in full view of the passengers,” Jet Aviation’s Harvey said. “They are part of, and enhance, the cabin interior, instead of taking a back seat. As these ‘show galleys’ become more popular, sometimes coming with their own resident chef, so does the use of task lighting, as well as clever accent lighting, to fully show the galley in its true effect.”

Similarly, food storage and service item storage needn’t be limited to the galley area. Wine chillers, food warmers, bar areas, as well as storage for chinaware and other service items often can be placed within the cabin itself. This frees up vital space in the galley for cooking and cool storage. Also consider whether the design of the passenger area would benefit from the use of formal
tables, combo tables and/or modular food trays.

Air extraction is also critically important in galleys, particularly if they have a more open plan, to ensure that cooking smells do not permeate the cabin.

Water and Waste

Water plays two essential functions within a galley design — preparing beverages and cleanup. In large aircraft, drinking water options are either potable water filtered from the aircraft’s water system, or bottled water, which is what designers normally recommend for drinking. Coffee machines and water boilers can be manually fed or line fed, again depending on customer preference. A galley equipped with an aircraft-certified dishwasher will need a significant water supply. Operators will have to decide whether it might be more cost-effective to bring multiple sets of dinnerware and light-rinse and store the dirty dishes until they can be washed after the flight. The same applies to the use of electric garbage disposals; the cost and complexity may far outweigh the use of tightly sealed waste bags.

Nevertheless, observed Greenpoint’s Weisner, “VIP conversion of airliners typically includes the installation of additional potable water storage and purification systems such as UV-based devices and high-quality filtration.”

Efficient waste disposal plays an important role in galley utilization and design. Every galley must be designed with ways to ensure rubbish can easily be stowed until landing. Trash compactors, in both full and half size, are now available. Alternatively, a waste cart is an oft-chosen alternative.

And although vacuum waste systems are now available for use with new galley garbage disposals, operators might want to consider whether they want to be spewing leftover foie gras and caviar over the countryside below.

Additionally, Greenpoint’s Weisner mentioned that the move away from traditional drain masts by aircraft OEMs (on the Boeing 787 for example) has posed a unique challenge for bizliner conversions, where showers and high VIP galley demands such as dishwashing and fresh food preparation are typically found on this class of private aircraft.

Again, every galley design will be unique to the operator’s passenger needs. Said Harvey, “We do a water consumption analysis for every completions project at Jet Aviation, taking into account every element that will use water in both the lavatories and galleys, as well as other elements such as humidification systems, to make sure there is provision for all uses.”

And speaking of water, it’s important for galley flooring to be slip- and water-resistant. Most galleys are located at the aircraft entrance, where water is tracked in and spills tend to happen. Vinyl mats that are easy to clean and dry are a common request. New and more attractive options are becoming available all the time.

Foresight Is Cheaper Than Hindsight

Meticulous consideration of all the details of a galley’s design in advance is the best way to control costs, according to every interior shop we consulted. Treat the layout of a galley with all the care given to a professional kitchen design. Space planning and work “flow” should be well thought out in advance. Rethinking the galley layout after the project moves into the production phase will inevitably spike project costs.

Smart organization is critical to a galley’s function and success. A galley must have ample storage space and be arranged to promote efficiency. The galley also must be flexible to adapt to unique and constantly changing meal services and customer requests. Efficient equipment that enables quick preparation and cleanup are essential to a properly functioning galley. Ergonomics also can play an important role. For example, appliances and overhead storage areas can be hard to access for shorter flight attendants. Awkward or repetitive movements may result in fatigue and injury, so galleys must be designed to account for these factors as much as possible.

Lead times are also an essential planning element. “Many customers leave galley customization as a last-minute addition to a project,” said Duncan’s Browning. “This is not a wise thing to do. Modifying a galley can require significant design, engineering and construction time. Even ordering parts for new china inserts can require a few weeks. My biggest advice would be that operators plan ahead.”

Part of that planning should include input from the flight crews. “Actually, I desperately seek out all the advice I can get from them’” said Browning. “The flight crew are the best resources I have for galley design and refits. They know the aircraft passengers’ needs better than anyone, and the best ideas tend to come from those who work in the galley every day.”

Greenpoint’s Weisner agreed. “Spend the time early to really think through the requirements for layout and equipment. Seek advice from your stakeholders [cabin crew, chef, etc.], including being familiar with the types of food service your passengers require.”

Jet Aviation’s Harvey concurred. “More often than not, it is us taking advice from the flight crew, not the other way around. They are the ones using the galley day in and day out and they have a wealth of experience regarding service and functionality. We often collaborate closely with the operator and crew during the definition phase, to understand how best we can design the galley to meet their needs. They also often understand the owner’s requirements best in this regard.”

Business aircraft galleys come with a level of technical complexity, due to the amount of equipment to be installed and certified in a relatively small area. Challenges can arise when customers request tailor-made items such as bars with complex shapes, or equipment that requires additional research and development to qualify, but normally these are all possible. Designers say they are seeing more technical complexity in terms of certified galley equipment in newer aircraft types such as the Boeing 787 and how the equipment interfaces with the aircraft systems.

Still, for some operators, a galley might either be impractical or only used on particular missions. For this reason, many operators turn to qualified aviation catering services to augment or replace the need for a formal galley.

Of course, you could always just serve box lunches. B&CA